GM free of government control underscores industry comeback

Executive Mandates

Akerson has spent the past three years pushing to fix the parts of the GM that weren’t addressed during its quick run through bankruptcy, including management structure, the speed of product development and rebuilding parts of the company’s captive finance capabilities.

He assigned Ammann the task of implementing a new financial reporting system to help better track the company’s sales in countries around the world. Chief Information Officer Randy Mott got a mandate to bring more information-technology functions back inside GM to help speed innovation.

Akerson has set several ambitious mid-decade goals, including increasing North American operating margins, stemming European losses and boosting sales in China. He’s revamped GM’s main global brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac.

GM is bringing out 18 new or refreshed vehicles this year and 14 next year as its works to transform its lineup from among the oldest into one of the newest.

The Chevrolet Impala was the first U.S. car chosen as the best sedan on the market by Consumer Reports, and the Cadillac CTS was picked as Motor Trend’s car of the year.

TARP Milestone

The wind-down of the U.S. stake in GM would bring to an end a linchpin of the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The auto industry’s revival was a flashpoint during last year’s presidential campaign, and Obama turned the issue against Republican candidate Mitt Romney to help win the key states of Ohio and Michigan.

The rescue saved 1.14 million jobs in 2009 at automakers and companies that depend on the industry, according to Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A collapse would have cut $96.5 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010, and it also would have cost the federal government $28.6 billion in extra jobless benefits and reduced Social Security contributions and income taxes in those years, the center said.

GM said it has invested $8.8 billion in U.S. facilities since 2009 and created 25,500 jobs for new and existing workers.

“It’s a template for how government can help in extreme cases,” Steven Rattner, the investment banker and first leader of Obama’s auto task force, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I don’t think it should be viewed as an indicator that government should just willy-nilly start messing around in the private sector. It does give you a road map for government intervening in a positive way.”

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